Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
Chapter Fifteen: The Sleeper Awakes
He heard the murmuring of distant voices, but was in no hurry to investigate further. Here it was warm and peaceful.
Ah, sweet oblivion.
There were no responsibilities here. No suffering and strife, just warmth and peace.
How long had he rested here; he neither knew or cared, only that he wanted it to never end. No monsters and madmen baying for his blood. No atrocities that he need witness to no affect other than to torment his fever haunted dreams. No loneliness and heartache for a life that never was and seemingly could never be.
Here there was no Ginny. No angelic face to haunt his dreams, just sweet memories of another time when hope was more than just a word. It was something to aspire to; a lifeline, a way station, an oasis,… but that desert was unending.
There would be no reprieve.
Someone was calling his name in the ether? Who it was or what they wanted, he neither knew nor cared. They could find someone else. Harry wasn't home.
His mother's face called out to him within his mind's eye. Did he really see her? It seemed a distant memory, a fading dream if it was ever more than that at all.
Light's Champion! What a crock- Heaven's hit man maybe, but champion? If he was the best the light could do, than the light was in worse shape than it knew.
The only thing he was good for was raising the census in hell. When his time came, if it hadn't already, he would just be another #1 added to tally along with the rest of the damned.
Where was he anyway? Was this some sort of limbo? Purgatory? Maybe he was dead and just planted in some God forsaken weed patch and this was all there really was; Just food for the worms.
He could live with that. Live? Ha, get it,… Live with that! Was he ever this witty in life?
Life, what life?
Hunted by a madman; forced to watch while friends and family were murdered before his eyes. Then in his moment of seeming triumph turned to rejection, abandonment,… and exile.
From exile he emerged the hunter. Eventually he became the madman and the cycle repeated itself.
What a waste.
The voices were back again, only this time they were more insistent, desperate…afraid. Calling out they were; calling out in pain and terror. Calling out to their God to save them, calling out to someone, to anyone.
Other voices there were, no,… not voices, but howls of blood lust and rage, shouts of challenge daring anyone to stand in their way as they tore through innocent flesh.
The voices of the innocent died away to murmurings of pain and grief that gave way to utter silence.
The silence spoke volumes in that it was a wail of despair that deafened the soul. Who was left to mourn their passing, who would avenge their destruction? Who would safeguard the future from the madness that claimed their lives?
The other guttural voices grew in violence and revelry, delighting in the horror they had reaped upon the innocent.
Who would dare oppose them? Whole cites would fall as wheat before the scythe. None could prevent the harvest of death that they would reap upon the innocent. They would sate their undying thirst in lakes of blood.
Civilization would fall and darkness would cover the land for eternity.
Their maddened howls grew in intensity as they came ever closer, more emboldened by their lack of opposition as they brazenly approached their prey. There was but one they feared. Only one who held the power to change what was to be. With his death the earthen realm would be theirs for the taking; a ripe plum upon which they would feed for a millennia.
The one drew them like a beacon against the encroaching darkness. He was a last bastion of hope that they would see utterly destroyed.
As he had once sensed them, they could too feel his presence in the world; it was anathema to them. His very presence brought hope and courage; characteristics they found appalling.
He was down, easy prey,… and they were coming to ensure he never rose again.
Harry's eyes snapped open, only they were no longer eyes in the true sense of the word. They were windows to the soul. Twin beacons of brilliant emerald fire that glowed with riotous vengeance. Not terrible to behold, but strangely comforting; at least they were to those who dared to look into the emerald fire burning within for therein was the best that man could aspire to be: charity, benevolence, courage, aye, there was courage to spare,… and love. A love of life, perhaps not his own, but still one that he could hope for and, at the very least, safeguard for others.
Startled gasps and exclamations filled the room as those that had sat in desperate vigil were both overjoyed and frightened as he rose soundlessly to his feet, his gleaming sword already to hand.
His presence filled the room like the rising of some Warrior God awakened to the call of battle.
Naked he rose from beneath his bedcovers. Naked and unashamed for the only raiment he required was the sheathed blade that he slung over his back-warrior fashion.
He strode purposely to the open door of the room that he occupied, oblivious to the startled gasps and calls around him, save to turn back at the threshold and command:
"All of you stay in the house. I shall ward it with my own life's blood. No darkness shall penetrate its portals so long as I still draw breath."
"H-Harry, b-but what…?" A frightened female voice hesitantly began to ask.
Harry's glowing orbs turned in the direction of Hermione's voice. If it were possible, one would almost swear the fires burning within his eyes softened reassuringly though his words were cryptic and foreboding as if in the throes of a prophesy.
"They are coming. Darkness dares come to claim the light. Death rides to sup at its vanguard,… and I find myself in need of a good meal." Harry answered in with the quirk of a terrifying grin pulling at the edges of his mouth.
"Noooo!" Hermione rasped out frightened.
Both her and Fleur nearby flew to him and grasped at his arms trying to draw him back into the room.
"Non" Fleur protested as he pulled his arm from her grasp with rock solid determination yet infinite gentleness as a parent would their own grasping child.
"Then let us come?" Hermione begged as he continued undaunted from the room.
Harry turned back and smiled tenderly at his two most steadfast friends. His truest family.
He reached out and softly laid a hand to each of their prospective cheeks.
"Where I go, you cannot follow. Do not worry over me for I shall not be alone; many good friends shall stand beside me. Their presence shall both comfort and inspire me. I am content in this."
Harry bent slightly and gently kissed Fleur's forehead, then Hermione's likewise. Tears of both happiness and dread fear filled both witches' eyes.
Compassionately, Harry brushed a hand across each of their trembling cheeks and whispered:
"Sleep" Both slumped unconsciously into his waiting arms.
Harry easily lifted them as if they were no more inconvenience than a small child, passing each to the reaching arms of their chosen life companion.
"Watch over them, always." He commanded Ron and Bill respectively.
Both wizards nodded solemnly as they held their mates reverently in their arms.
Harry turned his searing gaze back upon the room. "Look not upon the horizon for you will see nothing that you will wish to remember. Stay here in safety until it is over."
"H-How will we know when t-that is?" Mrs. Weasley asked in a frightened voice.
"You will know." Harry reassured vacantly, and then made to turn from the room, hesitating at the threshold to turn back and cast a last longing look toward Ginny's trembling form and Gabrielle's sniffling one next to her. Harry's jaw quivered as if he were struggling to speak, but finally he turned away and swept out of the Warren into the garden. What was there to say? They were a part of his past that was still grasping at the present.
He drew his molten silver sword from the sheath at his right shoulder, but did not call upon the spirits of the dead. He drew the razor sharp steel of his sword across his palm opening a shallow rent that filled with blood.
Allowing the blood to pool in his hand, he began an ancient Atlantean incantation. When he spoke the last word; thunder boomed ominously ough a cloudless sky overhead.
Harry cast his blood upon the outer wall of the Warren. A brilliant ruby flash erupted and bathed the home, covering it in an impenetrable shell of living energy.
Satisfied, Harry turned from his completed task and strode nakedly, obliviously so, across the grounds of the former Black estate, halting at the shore of the estate's lake where he re-sheathed his sword. He turned, keeping the waters of the lake intentionally to his back and waited patiently, casting his emerald gaze out across the grounds of his dead godfather's former estate.
Idly he mused how such a dark family as the Black's could have lived in such contrast. Whereas Grimauld Place was dark and foreboding, much like it's owners had been in life, Black Estate was the essence of culture and beauty. It was a sin to even consider that he would soon be the instrument by which this pristine haven would be marred by battle and death.
A faint movement upon the roofline caught his attention, eliciting an appreciative grin as he put his fingers to his mouth a whistled shrilly across the Warren's lawns. A predatory growl of delight answered his summons as a leathern winged acquaintance took to the air and flew like lightning in his direction.
Harry proffered his arm outward as Sara hovered to a stop just inches above his arm, beating her wings furiously as she descended feather light onto his waiting arm.
Harry marveled at the elegant grace of his familiar. Whereas dragons were enormous in size and terrible in power, Drake's were subtle by contrast. They had graceful, aerodynamic lines that depicted speed and agility, with a long tail to stabilize their flight in even the most adverse conditions. Where dragons could breathe fire endlessly without exhausting their reserves, Drake's could summon but a single burst or two for short durations, but their fire was vastly hotter and more destructive then their cousin's was. Dragons moved awkwardly on the ground, but Sara moved with the speed and grace of a viper- their distant cousins.
In her natural form Sara was a no more than three feet in length, and half that was ridged tail. Dark blue in coloring with green eyes so dark they appeared black except in direct sunlight. Sara's eyes gleamed with cunning intelligence from beneath her horned visage. When Sara summoned her magic she could increase her size for short durations to nearly half that of her Dragon cousins. Along with the obvious increase in strength this brought, so too was the speed of her flight increased, but for a limited time span. Though useful in battle, her natural state was far superior as she could teleport, after a fashion, over vast distances. Drakes were the only species known that could produce such a feat.
"Saaa hiss thaaa faaazuuu." Harry greeted in parseltongue. The language of the snake was common to all reptilian creatures.
Sara hissed back a scolding, voicing her displeasure at being so long departed from her familiar. She looked him over with a skeptical eye and pronounced his pale skinned nakedness- "Disgusting"
"I have missed you too." Harry returned fondly in parsel tongue. He scratched Sara's scaled throat, eliciting a deep rumbling purr of appreciation for his trouble. Sara's dark green eyes rolled back and her forked black tongue lolled from her snouted mouth from between razor sharp fangs that gleamed in the afternoon sun.
"The little ones?" Harry asked after her younglings. Drakes were also capable of baring a single littler without having to mate, a rarity even in the magical world.
A rumbling gurgle of pride escaped Sara's jaws as a puff of smoldering, smoke shot from her snouted nose as the proud mother informed Harry that her 'little ones' were no longer little and had taken to wing, now hunting for themselves.
"Have you taught them our way?" Harry questioned hopefully.
"All I know,… They are ready." Sara answered with no little pride.
Harry nodded. "Could you summon the knight's please? Take a message to Bjorn to have whatever force he can muster attack from the north end of the property at our enemies rear, while I bait them here at the water's edge. You and Gregory strafe the eastern side of any stragglers and have the twins take the western edge. Drive them into the lake."
Sara eyed him with a toothy, near incredulous look of suspicion. "To what purpose, surely ones such as they cannot drown- they are not even alive?" A snort of flame burst from her nostrils to emphasize her displeasure with his strategy.
Harry's eyes scanned the horizon warily. His empathic senses screamed that the enemies of the light would soon be upon him.
"There is no time for debate." He warned edgily. "I ask but your trust as you have mine in all things." He reminded her, though with a hint of warmth. Her concern was for his welfare though and not truly a matter of simple trust.
"It shall be as you say, my knight." Sara hissed loyally, brushing her soft scaled head against his shoulder affectionately adding, "Try not to get yourself killed before I return to save you."
"Cheeky lizard" Harry groused, but with no little affection as he tossed her from his arm into the air.
In a burst of fire and brimstone, Sara teleported away to carry out his assigned tasks.
Spare moments passed from the time of Sara's departure when a deafening screech erupted across the length of the estate and a tear in the fabric between planes of existence opened up and spilled a horde of monstrosities unto the once pristine lawns of the Black Estate.
Morbidly, Harry wondered if Sirius's dark witch of a mother would have been pleased or incensed by this intrusion upon her property? With a dark chuckle he surmised that it would have depended on whether these once men were purebloods when they still breathed.
Three or four score, shambling horrors of once men blinked stupidly in the light of day, perhaps seeing the sun again for the first time in centuries.
He almost pitied them, though knowing it was their choices in life that had led them to the sorry state they now found themselves in. Evil in life as they once had been was perhaps as nothing compared to millennia of endless torments, corrupting the soul into something far darker and primordial, leading to the twisted, slavering monstrosities that now growled and snapped at each other like rabid beasts. All sense of logic and reason had been driven away along with what little semblance of humanity they may haps once possessed.
They were reduced in mind and body to the essence of the evil they were in life.
Rotted putrid flesh, of rotten souls; cruelly fanged, slavering jaws that now thirsted for the blood of the living as they had in life thirsted for power at the expense of the innocent.
The foul stench of decay and putrescence assailed his senses. Their corruption in life could no longer stain the living, but it could still be feared and reviled.
Steeling himself, Harry placed his first and little fingers to his lips a blew a shrill whistle that attracted their confused attention.
"Are you lot gonna sit there all day scratching your arses or are we gonna get this thing started already?" Harry bellowed in challenge.
Dozens of startled, feral eyes swiveled in Harry direction. An anxious moment passed , till one of the creatures boldly howled it's ravening thirst for his blood, soon joined by the growls and shrieks of its fellows rose and wafted across the grounds like a madman's symphony, as the horde bolted in his direction.
Harry calmly drew his gleaming sword but did not summon the souls of his dead lest he forestall his enemies' thoughtless charge to their own destruction.
"Thy will be done, Great Father." He whispered in solemn prayer at the horde descended upon him.
Barely a handful of minutes had passed between the time Harry had risen, (healed and renewed to something even surpassing all that he once was), like some avenging angel from his comatose state.
At that moment the family huddled together in near terror at the sound of the blood ravening screams that echoed through the walls of their home and the floors shook beneath their feet as the horde outside descended upon Harry.
"Merlin's blood, what's that?" Ron swore pulling his wand instinctively from its holster at his side.
"Nothing you'll ever want to see." Ginny whispered fearfully a few seats away. She suppressed a shudder of dread terror as she fought back the memory of what she'd seen the night the Burrow had been destroyed.
Heedless of the eyes in the room that turned in her direction, Ginny fixed her eyes on the doorway that Harry had framed when he turned back to the room in all his naked glory. She filled her reeling senses with the image, grateful that it drove away the memory of the horrors she'd witnessed that night, instead dwelling on the breath taking visage of her once teenage love.
With burning cheeks, Ginny etched every nuance of the vision that was Harry, within her mind: His rippling muscles that glowed with strength and vitality. The way the hilt of his gleaming sword jutted up behind his broad right shoulder. Night black hair that framed a powerful jaw and cheekbones below glowing green eyes that both frightened and enchanted any who dared look into them. His broad flat chest that seamlessly melted into hard ridged abdominal muscles rimmed by powerful, sleek hips and steel hard legs that belied speed, agility and grace.
Despite herself, she'd ventured a look further down. How could she not? That too was as pleasing as the rest of him. His manhood was not overly large, but perfectly symmetrical with the rest of his well honed physique.
He was breath taking.
Shamelessly, Ginny realized that she was looking at the most beautiful representation of a man that she could ever want to see.
By the gasps that sounded from, Gabrielle next to her and the bright blush that suffused her rival friend's cheeks; she could tell that Gabrielle was struggling to ingrain the same memory on her mind's eye that she was.
Strangely, she wasn't jealous of this in the least. Her estimation of Gabrielle rose accordingly in shared appreciation of beauty.
They'd both saw him naked before. Had they not each stolen looks beneath his covers as he lay comatose. The curiosity of it had been too much to bear, not to.
As enticing as that had been, it was as nothing to seeing Harry standing with sword in hand in all his naked glory, his magic swirling around him unbridled, the air crackling with energy.
A Warrior God! An avenging angel! A hero, knight and what-a-Knight!
Ginny growled low in her throat, oblivious to the sounds of battle outside, as she wantonly reveled in the memory. She's never been so utterly turned on in her life!
Gabrielle sat dumbstruck, lost in her thoughts until the first primordial screams of rage outside shook the windows of the manse.
Her wand leapt into her hand and she was about to bolt for the door when her brother in laws restraining hand grasped her arm and held fast.
Her terrified eyes met her brother in-laws worried, but calm and reassuring ones. She could see the fear for Harry's safety in his eyes, warring with the steadfast faith he had in him.
Gabrielle's lips parted to plead her case, but Bill shook his head and whispered in French:
"Let him do as he must. You will only serve as a distraction that he can ill afford. He was born to this for he is truly the light's chosen champion. Be brave for him. He will return to us and will need you then. Comfort him,… understand him. Cherish him, and if he lets you in,… then love him my sister. Love him with every fiber of your being for he deserves no less."
Gabrielle gaped momentarily at her brother in law, contemplating his words and what they portended. The fact that he was giving her this advice over his own sister, whose feelings he was as aware of as she, spoke volumes for to her and she was grateful, very grateful and humbled by this revelation.
She smiled in grateful understanding and squeezed Bill's restraining hand appreciatively, careful not to disturb her sleeping sister in his embrace.
Molly Weasley's mind was a mass of whirling thoughts. Memories warred with one another as she compared one fleeting memory of the scrawny haunted Harry Potter of years past with the herculean warrior knight who stood majestically before her family only moments ago. If someone had told her then that Harry would grow into the frame of the man she saw today, she would have laughed in their face.
Now she understood better. Harry's outside was now the image of what was inside the man. He was the epitome of a hero in every sense of the word; a gallant knight of legend.
Silently she rose from her place at his now empty bedside, shrugged off her husband's half hearted attempts to hold her back and made for the doorway.
"There's nothing you or anyone else can do, Molly. This is knight's business." her husband warned.
"I can bear witness!" she argued, explaining. "I can tell the story to my grandchildren when they are old enough to understand. I can see that his story is passed down from generation to generation as it deserves to be. In at least this much I can see him honored in the way that he deserves, but would never dare think he does."
"Molly," Arthur near pleaded with his wife. "You heard, Harry. What happens now is not meant for you to see."
Molly shook her head resolutely. "Do you think his mother is not watching over him in this? Can I do less than she who bore him? I do this as much for Lily as for Harry."
Arthur Weasley's mouth hung agape in consternation a moment before he reluctantly conceded and nodded his acceptance of her decision.
Molly walked into her kitchen and peered cautiously through the blood hued haze of her windows. What she bore witness to defied the imagination.
Harry stood with sword in hand waiting patiently, seemingly trapped between the water's edge and the nightmare that descended upon him.
Molly prayed to Merlin above that he would flee. No man could stand against that, not even Harry Potter!
Shambling, ravenous grotesqueries they were. Mindless, feral spawn of some misbegotten ring of the pit from whence they came. They were walking sin incarnate, a blasphemy to the eye of the creator.
And Harry!? Harry just stood there, waiting at the water's edge. He was as naked as the day he was born, with only a sword in his hand. It was if he held a toothpick to battle a horde of dragons.
They were no more than two hundred meters from him and closing fast. Hooves and clawed feet tore into their once pristine lawn, rattling the Warren's windows, even at this distance away.
Harry raised his gleaming blade above his head, reversed his grip and plunged it into the ground, like she remembered he had done at the Harpies match. Only this time he was not saving thousands of innocent lives, but taking out a host of evil. The moment his sword pierced the earth, the ground on either side of him erupted and enormous rocky spikes lanced skyward.
Molly cringed back reflexively, shocked by such an immense display of magical power. Never would she have thought any living soul capable of such a feat of transmutation. Not even Dumbledore in his heyday could have duplicated such a feat. It was in this moment that Molly understood why no one for over a thousand years had accomplished the rank that Harry held. This is what it meant to be a Battle Mage.
The spikes rose some fifty feet into the sky branching out from Harry at an angle to either side. As wide as tree trunks at the base rising to sharp points that for many held the impaled forms of nightmare creatures that twisted and scrabbled uselessly trying to free themselves before finally going limp, succumbing to the true death, never to rise again on either the Earth or in the next life.
From her vantage point Molly could see the tactical advantage Harry was employing. Not only had the spikes taken a small toll on the advancing horde, but they were now forced into a gauntlet with Harry and his gleaming sword waiting at the apex. They could not flank him and the narrow space through which they could reach him nullified their great numbers.
The space between the spikes was too small for the demons to squeeze through to escape, but large enough for Molly to catch their continued movements between the gaps. Though momentarily shocked, the demons surged forward with renewed ferocity, infuriated by the loss of their brethren.
Molly pressed her face to the window pane, struggling to see what was happening. She gasped apprehensively as the bellows of bloodlust outside rose to a crescendo- heralding the worst, but within moments those selfsame roars turned to screams of pain and terror.
Molly pulled back from the window pane, her hand reflexively covering her mouth to stifle her own screams of horror as black blood and ichor burst from between the spiked wall. The spikes themselves shook and crumbled as if a giant were bashing them down with a war hammer. The floor shook beneath her feet and the window cracked from the shockwave.
Within the space of a few intense minutes the last of the spike crumbled back into the ground from whence they rose, sending a plume of dust and debris outward that obscured the vision.
Muted humanlike cries of pain and agony assaulted the ears. As the dust began to settle, Molly could just make out thrashing limbs that clawed vainly at the air, struggling to rise before falling back to the ground in utter defeat. She scanned across the ground desperately trying to catch a glimpse of Harry amidst the chaos and destruction that littered the lawns of their estate, but he was nowhere to be found.
In horror, she watched as one blackened man-shaped demon staggered to its feet amidst the carnage of the battlefield. Her fear gave way to desperate joy as she beheld vivid green eyes open and with a wave of his hand, Harry banished the black blood and gore covering his flesh.
He walked the breadth of the field several times, dispatching the wounded and dying with a quick sword stroke here and a casual flick of his hand that sent cutting hexes into his wounded foes with such force that the ground was torn asunder beneath their now lifeless bodies.
Once satisfied that all his foes were no more, Harry kneeled upon the ground and place his forehead against the tip of his sword in silent prayer.
What he prayed for? Molly could only hazard a guess. Perhaps he was saying a prayer of thanks for his having survived? Knowing Harry, she believed he was most likely saying a prayer for the vanquished by asking the Great Father's mercy in their behalf.
She would have been right on both counts, with the addition that he was also thanking the father for returning to him the means to keep innocent safe.
Harry rose to his feet and, in one swift motion, swung his sword in an arc across the battlefield which erupted in white hot flames. The flames died almost as quickly as they had been summoned to life, leaving behind naught but the ashes of the fallen.
Harry pointed his sword toward the lake, whose waters surged forward, sending a thirty foot wave crashing across the lawn. The waters receded back into the lakebed, washing away the ash of the fallen, cleansing the bare earth leaving not so much as a scorch mark still visible.
Harry snapped his fingers and his patronus glimmered into being. He spoke softly to "prongs" and with a wave, sent his patronus streaking away into the countryside to deliver its message.
Molly was about to breach the door of her kitchen when an entire platoon of armored knights apparated on the north end of their lawns.
Now they come? She smirked at the irony. Help always seemed to come too late for Harry Potter, not that he ever seemed to need it to begin with. Harry always found a way.
Molly watched with interest as the First Knight and Harry seemed to be engaged in an argument of sorts. Bjorn Dykstra seemed to be giving Harry a first rate dressing down. Dressing down?
Molly chuckled in amusement. Judging by the jeering laughter and catcalls coming from the armored knights gathered nearby, that was exactly the reason Harry was being taken to task-his nakedness.
Harry, for his part, was standing stoically in front of Dykstra with his arms folded across his powerful chest and chin held high. Molly recognized this stubborn stance from Harry's youth and knew that Dykstra was wasting his breath. Harry was not only unashamed, but was actually proud of himself.
Good for you, dear.
Dykstra finally wore himself down and through his hands up in frustration and stalked off, scowling at his giggling subordinates as he passed.
Harry turned on his heal and marched toward the kitchen door, ignoring his jeering comrades. When he was not more than a few yards away he waved his hand, casually nullifying the blood charm he'd placed over the Warren and continued onward without the slightest pause.
He entered the kitchen door and paused as he registered Molly's amused expression before proceeding toward the kitchen table where he pulled the tablecloth off and wrapped it around his naked torso to preserve his waning dignity.
He marched past sparing her the slightest of glances and a quiet "Molly" of acknowledgement as he continued onward toward his suite.
He entered the room ignoring the startled gasps and sighs of relief that his arrival elicited.
George was the first to break the ice with a feigned groan of disappointment. "I take it the supper's going to be late?", referring to his choice of wardrobe.
Harry's face colored slightly at that but he managed to make it through the, now laughing room, to the door of his private suite before Ginny was able to get out a gasping retort of…"K-Kilts don't suit y-you, H-Harry… Oh-he-he," She giggled falling against Percy's shoulder while he struggled himself to hold in his aching sides. "I much p-prefer what you had on b-b-before..Ha-Ha…."
Harry's back went crimson and his pace quickened as he nearly bolted into his dressing room, slamming the door in a blind panic behind him.
Twenty minutes later a freshly showered and attired Harry Potter entered his bedroom from the adjoining bath suite.
His piercing gaze swept the room finding everyone still present plus Molly, who was still giggling slightly at his expense. His eyes narrowed dangerously daring them to utter a single word. The room quieted of all but an occasional snort that he let pass without comment other than to scowl at its perpetrator.
He stopped by Molly and politely asked if he could have a bite to eat as he was, not surprisingly, "famished".
"Of course, dear." She cheered, adding. "Supper will be ready shortly." Molly reached out a hand to receive her tablecloth that he had returned and snorted "I'll just tuck this in the wash, shall I?"
Harry's face flamed as the rest of the room erupted in laughter again.
Supper was its usual affair with silverware clicking with pleasant, even joking conversation, some of it still at Harry's expense. It was probably the most comfortable, family like environment they'd shared as a group in quite some time.
Harry had been actually enjoying himself up until the time when Ginny asked innocently enough.
"Harry,… why do you do it?"
The room went forebodingly silent, though Harry seemed oblivious to the room's reaction.
"Because I can." He answered simply, continuing his meal unabated.
"But the constant danger, it's terrifying,.. aren't you even scared when you're out there?"
Harry's eyes went out of focus for a moment, and then he answered succinctly. "All the time."
"Then why? What's worth that?"
"I thought your family was? You and so many others around the world, am I wrong in my assumptions?" He returned incredulously before trying to return to his meal.
"Well, no,… but don't you want anything for yourself?"
Hermione gasped expectantly at that and the table went dead silent as many eyes lowered and some shifted their gazes nervously between Harry and Ginny.
Harry sighed and set his fork calmly down on his plate. He pushed his plate away in disappointment, his appetite ruined.
"Harry?" Ginny pressed; oblivious to the discomfort she was causing both him and the rest of her family.
He turned in his chair and addressed her wearily. "What would you have me do? Being a knight does not preclude us from having the same wants and desires as any other man. It is our sense of duty and our own personal honor that dictates our actions. The safety of the civilian public is first and foremost our responsibility. It's all a matter of priorities, really. Just because I don't shag you rotten right here on the dining table, in front of God and everyone, doesn't mean the thought hasn't occurred to me with more than a passing interest. "
Ginny flamed red at that whilst Ron sprayed his coffee across the table and his brothers howled in laughter.
Mr. Weasley sighed and mimicked Harry's action of pushing his plate away. Harry's visual had ruined his appetite now as well.
Apparently Harry had found his again and resumed eating amidst snickers and snorts from Ginny's brothers.
Once the table had settled, Harry paused to compliment his host. "This is quite delicious Mrs. Weasley, thank you."
"You're very welcome, dear." At seeing her husband's scandalized glare, she quickly amended. "I mean, Lord Knight."
"Harry,… will do to be going on with." He corrected off handily, not noticing the beaming smile that lit her face at his willingness to dispatch with cool formality.
Either that or he just didn't want to argue the validity of addressing him as a knight.
"Perhaps you'll allow me to return the favor?" he continued. "I usually hold a rather informal party at my ranch at the end of July, which of course is less than a week away,… anyway, I should be most pleased if you all would consider attending?" he invited.
Molly beamed sweeping her gaze around her family who all looked quite excited at the prospect.
"I think it safe to say that we would all be delighted to attend, Harry. Thank you."
Harry nodded as he dug into his pudding with relish.
"Can we , er,.. bring anything?" Ginny asked politely.
"You may want to bring your bathing attire. I like that little yellow number of yours." Harry added airily whilst Ginny's face went crimson again.
The bikini he'd mentioned was the skimpiest one she owned.
George elbowed Percy. "Yes, Ginnikins , it must be the yellow one. You wouldn't want to disappoint our host, now would you?' George chortled.
Ginny shot her brothers a death glare that lost much of its potency given the fact that she was blushing to her roots.
Molly cleared her throat meaningfully and asked. "Anything else? A nice salad or dessert, perhaps?"
Harry shrugged. "Nah, we've pretty much got it covered, but I suggest jeans and boots, it's pretty rough out there.
"Ginny," he drew the redhead's attention... "mind the picnic tables for slivers and such." drawing reference to his earlier comment regarding "shagging" her atop the table.
The boys, including Mr. Weasley guffawed at that whilst Ginny's hands went to her purpled face as she flew out of the room.
Once she was out of ear shot, the ladies joined the men in waves of laughter.
Harry just continued eating,… his eyes twinkling merrily.